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Fraser Island

Australasia

Sands of time

Sand

The world’s largest sand island is more than just a giant beach

 

There are no castles on Fraser Island but if there were, they would be built on sand. On the Queensland coast some 184,000 hectares of quartz grains make a platform for lakes, wildlife and a surprisingly flourishing rainforest. Dunes stretch up to 244 metres above sea level on an island that is 122 kilometres (75 miles) long and up to 22 kilometres (13 miles) wide. Some 250 kilometres (155 miles) of beaches surround the inland.

The island has formed over some 700,000 years. Yet sand started to accumulate long before. Some 700 million years ago, when Antarctica was attached to Australia, eroded mountain ranges turned to sand. Along with grains from south-east Australia, it travelled towards the Queensland coast through winds, waves and ocean currents. It settled on the continental shelf before drifting towards the mainland in a zigzag pattern.

The process was helped by changing temperatures regulating ocean levels. During low tide, more sand became visible and started travelling across the surface. The volumes were so large that plants could not stabilise it. Over time, it settled. This created a number of islands, though there is a reason why Fraser became the largest. It used to be a low, hilly terrain formed by volcanic activity millions of years ago, and became an easy catchment area for travelling grains. Continue Reading…